On July 2, 1951, the first female Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) recruits arrived at RCAF Station St. Jean, Que., for basic training. To mark the 60th anniversary of this momentous occasion, about 300 former RCAF airwomen from all around the world gathered in Edmonton, Alta., from June 3 to 5 for their bi-annual reunion.
This group, aptly called “RCAF Airwomen”, stays in touch between reunions and gathers every two years to rekindle friendships, reminisce and simply have a lot of fun.
As part of this year’s reunion, 85 women toured CFB Edmonton – a base that had changed a lot since many of these women last saw it as an Air Force base.
They stopped at 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) for a tour, and chance to exchange anecdotes with currently serving airwomen of 408 THS.
Although they said they were a little jealous of the opportunities women now have in the CF, these women were proud that they had a hand in opening the doors for women to serve as they do today.
Ruth Chaster, one of the visitors, showed that she hadn’t lost a beat since her days in the RCAF from February 1943 to December 1946. When asked what she did when she was in the RCAF, she responded with a smile, “Get in trouble”.
As she shared her story, it became very apparent that she did much more in service to her country. She re-joined the RCAF in 1951 and served in supply for seven more years. She was just one of the many fascinating women gathered in Edmonton.
Major Ilene Fika was involved in many aspects of the reunion and squadron visit. “These women really long for a sense of still belonging,” she said. “Everywhere they went [on the base] they were warmly welcomed and felt like they were still a part of the military family.”
Maj Fika is herself a member of RCAF Airwomen. “I enjoy it and am proud of my part as a woman in the CF.”
RCAF Airwomen would like to see more currently serving women join them. Anyone interested can get more information by visiting www.rcafairwomen.ca. The next reunion will be in Cornwall, Ont. in 2013.